MBA in Human Resources (HR) - What You Need To Know
9 May, 2021
Unlike the Indian MBA scene, MBA at most top schools abroad doesn’t allow an applicant to opt for a particular stream right away.
Most top business schools provide a General Management MBA with electives that allows students to select electives focused on various subjects of their interest.
During the MBA application process, students are required to elaborate on their post-MBA goals. However, the admissions committee does not expect students to follow through on these. This is done to gauge an applicant’s understanding of why they need an MBA and how they plan to utilize it.
A student’s understanding of the business world drastically changes and expands during their first year at a business school. Thus, a lot of MBA students end up moving in a direction different from their goals story. Had business schools not had the provision of selecting electives, students would be stuck with the goals they had started school with. This would beat the purpose of a global MBA experience, which is to expand an individual.
Moving on to a Human Resources career post-General Management MBA.
A Rockstar applicant of ours, Damini, is proof that a General Management MBA can help an applicant create an amazing career as an HR Leader.
In 2018, Damini graduated from Nanyang Technological University Singapore and is currently leading HR initiatives for Grifols as the Regional HR Partner for Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East.
Attending Asia’s #6 business school surely introduces a student to diversity and a cultural shock. This can be especially dangerous when the MBA program is hardly 10 months. However, Damini thrived in the demanding environment of a General MBA at a top school and then as an HR leader at a top firm.
Why choose a General Management MBA for a Human Resources Career?
Let’s first try to understand how a general management MBA turned Damini into the HR leader that we see today.
Damini explained how before an MBA she was simply in the execution part of HR through her job. However, a general management MBA gave her the necessary tools to understand the leadership perspective of her role. “Yes. You have some visibility of how leadership works if you were working in multinational companies. There's an only limited view of how things are discussed at the top. And this is very limited. When you go for an MBA, especially the global MBA that I was a part of, it opens up your horizons,” she explains.
“You have this holistic learning of, okay, that's how marketing works or that's how operations work, or that's how finance works. And how it all comes together at the top. And this is how a decision is made and executed through different layers to the last person.
That lens of how a marketing person approaches and a challenge or how a commercial person goes out on the field and sells is very important for an HR perspective. This perspective, this diversity of thought is something that I've picked up from my batchmates, and my professors.”
She also credits her general management MBA from NTU for preparing her to deal with a situation as challenging as a pandemic.
“Even during my MBA, I was asked questions like, why do you need to do an MBA to be an HR? And believe me, I have thought about it a lot during those 10 months, and even after that. I have an answer to it now, it's a funny statement, but I use it.
We keep saying that HR needs a seat at the table, but the thing is, MBA is a way for HR to invite themselves to the table where the dinner is being served,” she says as she explains why an HR needs an MBA, to begin with.
Who should opt for a Human Resources goal post a General Management MBA?
This is a very subjective topic to address.
For sure, if you are someone working in HR and wanting to move vertically in your job role, you should opt for a Human Resource goal post a General Management MBA.
If you can crack a business school, you will be provided with the option to go for HR electives and move into an HR career. However, before selecting those electives, you need to decide whether you would thrive in a career in HR.
The role of HR at a firm is to regulate and maintain talent. The company’s biggest assets, the employees, get directly affected by most decisions that the HR makes. They also directly affect the productivity of a firm as everything from the hiring, to the training of employees are the decisions of a company’s HR.
Considering all of the above, you would require certain skills to be effective in the role. Most importantly, communication needs to be your strong-suit as an HR representative.
When you opt for an HR role post-a General Management MBA from a business school abroad, you will also be faced with a cultural gap. Some of your hires might also face the same. Either way, you would need the understanding to deal with the same.
Here’s what Damini advises to such applicants. Damini lists two major things that helped her. The first one, “We had like 25 nationalities in the class. And you were observing them all the time. That's how it works. You observe behaviours, personalities, how people are absorbing content, you know, how are they reacting?
And this is what I did. That's how I am as a person. I'm very curious as to how, why a person behaves like this. And, and I was able to pick up these skills during those 10 months.”
She continued, “And one more thing, I was impressed by one of the courses I had. It was cultural intelligence. I think it's being taught in a lot of MBA programs as well. But it's very interesting because we've talked about IQ, EQ, but this was CQ and this was new to me. But it was very important because we were all put out in a room and asked about the stereotypes of Indians, of Chinese, of Germans. And we could discuss and debate because it's all about building empathy towards people and understanding how they're wired.”
She went on to talk about being able to use her learnings from her diverse class and the elective in her role as a regional HR leader as she deals with team members across Asia-Pacific and the Middle-East.
Recruitment post-MBA for HR
The recruitment process at top business schools can start as early as the first semester. Schools encourage MBA students to get in touch with the Career Centers as soon as they join. The members at the Career Center help guide students optimize their profiles during their MBA program to land their dream jobs.
Damini shares her recruitment experience at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
“So Career Services helps you build your base. In the sense that they have a format in place of how to approach the job market, this is how the resume looks like, this is how your pitch should be, these are the first 10 people based on your experience that you should speak to. And they will also assign you, industry specialists or coaches.
They always have these programs at universities where they would say, based on experience, we have this senior HR lady who can help you. Just go for a coffee talk and then start your conversations from there. And it's so fast-paced. That's how Singapore works. And a lot of, you know, globalized countries like Singapore you have to get hold of these people before they go to work. After coming back from work back to the home, you have to get hold of these people and have these coffee meets and start working on the base that the career services have given you.”
She went into more details, “You'll have a couple of target companies that you have in mind, but again, that's based on how you viewed things from India, right? Like you have to evolve over time. So you have a base there. You have a story of the pitch in place. And then you start meeting people and you start defining it.
How it makes sense is if you have those 10 companies, you know, those top 10 tech brands, FMCG brands that's good. That's a good list to have. But in Singapore, you have to understand it's a very small Island. So the headcount of companies is very restricted and the roles that you want are too. So you have to have that mindset in place before approaching the market.”
To help any MBA applicants vying for Singapore, Damini had more in-depth knowledge to share about the recruitment cycles. She said, “In the Singapore market, the cycle is also different. Consulting companies higher during October. A lot of other companies start hiring next year in March after the financial cycle. You have to wait for the cycle and get hold of them.”
Although it is important to understand the job market in Singapore, it is also that applicants understand the Visa formalities and how the system works. Knowing how long an MBA grad is allowed to stay is also crucial.
Top 9 Business Schools for a post-MBA HR goal
By this point in this blog, you must have a good idea of whether HR post-MBA goals are for you or not. Or maybe you’re still confused. Either way, you will need to know which business schools are the best for applicants who wish to have a career in HR.
The top business schools for a post-MBA HR goal are as follows: